I never imagined we would delve into the world of capturing CO2. These days, it’s a topic we hear about constantly. Day after day, countries like the United States offer numerous programs and incentives to actively address this issue, and Europe is following suit. Countries in Latin America are also making strides, learning, and genuinely understanding the subject. I’d like to take you back to the first time I encountered this incredible process, in my fourth-grade Biology class. I was fortune enough to have an extraordinary teacher who introduced me to the fascinating world of carbon dioxide. It was the first time I heard about this gas, and that moment has stayed with me ever since. Our teacher not only talked to us about CO2 but also explained the importance of understanding the global carbon cycle.
She told us that plants, like the beautiful sunflower in my mother’s backyard home, absorb carbon dioxide to live. However, when these plants die, the carbon they had absorbed returns to the atmosphere by combining with oxygen. That’s when I began to grasp the concept of the global carbon cycle.
For much of human history, we maintained a balance in this cycle, meaning that the amount of carbon stored in the Earth, the atmosphere, and the oceans remained constant. However, today we have disrupted that balance, leading to the oceans absorbing more CO2 and a 45% increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
Today, the atmosphere contains approximately 860 billion metric tons of carbon, more than all the living vegetation on Earth. Furthermore, this is roughly 80 GtC more than in the year 2000.
But I don’t want to focus solely on the problems; I also want to discuss the solutions. I want to share how various industries are coming together to advance and restore that balance. We are in the midst of an energy transition, and it is crucial to find sustainable ways to meet our current and future energy demands.
Managing carbon is a complex issue because much of anthropogenic CO2 comes from the production and use of energy, something essential for maintaining or improving our quality of life. Solutions to stabilize and reduce carbon emissions go beyond energy conservation and an increase in the use of renewable energies.
This is where carbon capture, utilization, and storage, or CCUS for short, come into play. These initials represent a set of steps that involve capturing CO2, compressing it into a dense liquid or fluid, transporting it to a geological storage site, and injecting it into deep geological formations. All of this ensures its permanent storage, isolating it from the atmosphere.
But what’s even more astonishing is the technology that supports these magnificent operations. Companies like the one I work for, Microseismic Inc., under the brand CO2SeQure, have developed a technology that guarantees precise monitoring to detect any potential leaks, thus ensuring the long-term effectiveness of these projects.
Now, let’s delve into more detail about carbon capture, a concept that may have sounded like science fiction at some point. Carbon capture is the process of collecting carbon dioxide (CO2) from the gases produced in industrial processes. This stage, common to various approaches, involves the collection of CO2 generated during industrial activities, such as the combustion of fossil fuels (such as oil or gas) or the production of industrial materials like steel, cement, or oil and gas. In other words, it’s about trapping CO2 before it is released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas.
How do we achieve this carbon capture? There are several methods, but the main ones include:
Post-combustion: This method is primarily used in existing industrial facilities. It involves separating carbon dioxide from the combustion gases generated during the burning of fossil fuels (such as oil or gas) or industrial materials. Essentially, CO2 is extracted from the exhaust gases before being released into the atmosphere.
Pre-combustion: Pre-combustion capture involves converting the fuel into a gas before combustion and then separating CO2 from that transformed gas. This approach is used in some new industrial plant projects.
Oxy-combustion carbon capture: In this process, carbon is captured in an environment of nearly pure oxygen. Since the fuel is not burned in normal air, it’s easier and more efficient to capture carbon dioxide this way. However, oxy-combustion often requires more energy and additional costs compared to a traditional air-based plant.
Currently, post-combustion is the most commonly used method for carbon capture because re-equipping an existing factory with pre-combustion technology can be extremely expensive, and oxy-combustion tends to be more energy-intensive and costly than conventional technologies. However, with the ongoing development of electrical and industrial infrastructure, we may see an increase in the use of new carbon capture methods in the future. These advancements are crucial for addressing the challenges of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
And that’s not all. In our next installment, we will focus more on carbon capture and how the storage process begins. We will also explore how MicroSeismic Inc. is committed to improving the world through the application of innovative technologies. Together, we are working towards a more sustainable future and a healthier planet. We Listen. We Protect. We Care.